KIPP Newark Lab Academy Dean, Sean Ogunnoiki can still remember the conversation he had with his students after the January 6th, 2021 invasion of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. 

“They came in with a lot of questions,” he said. “They asked me why it was ok for people to be violent in our Capitol, when the same behavior by their neighbors in Newark would likely cause immediate arrests. We talked about them one by one, ” said Ogunnoiki. 

Against a backdrop of rapid social change and an uptick in violence nationwide, students in 2022 are receiving information (and misinformation) from more sources than ever, whether it’s TikTok or Twitter. With more sources of news, it’s harder for adults and students alike to discern fact from fiction and have informed conversations that ease anxiety and promote greater understanding of the issues that shape our world. 

Here are some of the best tips we pulled from experts inside and outside of our community on how to connect with children about tough conversations and discern myths from reality.

Let kids lead: KIPP Newark Community Prep parent Kenyetta Gorham believes that unpacking difficult political or news topics requires making space for conversations with her child. “I give my daughter the floor to feel out where she feels. Instead of sharing my opinion and being biased, I get her insights. I allow her to elaborate, I’ll even tell her to Google the topic, then we come together for a  conversation,” said Gorham. 

Offer context and resources: Against a backdrop of school shootings or bullying incidents in the news, students may have a heightened sense of fear in classrooms. KIPP Upper Roseville Academy parent Ethosha Parker noticed her son was concerned about bullying and also brought up the school’s recent safety drills at home. “In kindergarten, he learned so much, but he would worry a little about bullying. I gave him a talk about who in the school would be the right person to speak to if he had a problem, and it helped him to feel like he had those resources,” said Parker. 

Sources matter! “For a lot of kids, social media and TikTok are where they receive their news first,” said Amiel Holliday, a History teacher at KIPP Lanning Square Middle in Camden, New Jersey. Holliday encourages students to think carefully about where they’re getting their news and always examine an issue from more than one perspective. “I believe in meeting kids where they’re at on social media, which means that I’ll take class time after a major event to help them unpack what they’re seeing,” said Holliday. “We’ll look at several TikToks on the same topic from a different perspective, and do the same with online articles,” he said. Holliday encourages families to do the same at home. 


We’re sharing top tips from Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that helps families and educators support children in navigating digital media. 

Children Under 7:

  • Keep the news away. Turn off the TV and radio news at the top of the hour and half hour. Preschool kids don't need to see or hear about something that will only scare them silly, especially because they can easily confuse facts with fantasies or fears.
  • Tell them that your family is safe, loved, and valued. At this age, kids are most worried about safety and separation from you. It's important to help them feel safe and cope with their feelings, even during troubling times. Try not to downplay their concerns and fears. 

Tips for kids age 8–12

  • Consider your child individually. Many kids can handle a discussion of threatening events, but if your kids tend toward the sensitive side, be sure to keep them away from the TV news. Repetitive images and stories can make dangers appear greater, more prevalent, and closer to home.
  • Questions & Conversation. At this age, many kids will see the morality of events in stark black-and-white terms and are in the process of developing their moral beliefs. This is a good time to ask them what they know, since they'll probably have gotten their information from friends, and you may have to correct facts.
  • Discuss and limit coverage. You might explain that even news programs compete for viewers, which sometimes affects content decisions. If you let your kids use the internet, go online with them.

Tips for teens

  • Check in. Since, in many instances, teens will have absorbed the news independently of you, talking with them can offer great insights into their developing politics and their senses of justice and morality. And it will give you the opportunity to throw your own insights into the mix (just don't dismiss theirs, since that will shut down the conversation immediately).
  • Let teens express themselves. Try to address their concerns without dismissing or minimizing them. If you disagree with media portrayals, explain why so your teens can separate the mediums they get news from and the messages conveyed.

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